Tuesday, 17 April 2018

NEWRY City AFC manager Darren Mullen hasn't given up on reaching the top spot but has urged his players to seize the chance of securing a play-off spot by defeating rivals Portadown on Friday (April 24) at 7.45pm.

Newry have three games left in the Championship before any potential play-off, two in the Showgrounds, including Friday's clash against the Ports, then another on Tuesday (April 24) against Harland and Wolfe, before travelling to Belfast to face the Welders again on the following Saturday.

It is Mullen's aim to be still in a shout of achieving top spot going into the last game but his first priority is to win against Portadown on Friday.

"It is a huge game for us, there is no way to play it down as to have a game at this stage of the season to secure a play-off spot is tremendous for us," said Mullen.

"We want to secure that play off spot as early as we can and until it is mathematically impossible to take the top spot, we will keep pushing, so we need to keep winning our games."

City will be without suspended duo, captain Mark Hughes and Declan Carville, while Jimmy Walker is an injury concern, but Darren King and Kevin McArdle should feature after sitting out the win over Loughgall.

Players such as King, McArdle, John Boyle, Stephen Hughes, Marty Havern and Paddy Mooney have had plenty of big game experience, while Newry are well used to high pressure finishes to recent seasons, so Mullen feels, even without key players such as Mark Hughes and Carville that his team are finely tuned for Friday's showdown at the Showgrounds.

Training has been good, the break has been good and the boys know the importance of the game and they know what is needed," said Mullen.

"It is a case of grasping the opportunity as, while it is an amazing achievement to have done so well at our first season back at this level, we don't want to be a hard luck story. We want to go and finish this journey.

"The good thing is that we have been in this position in four of the last five seasons, for promotions or league titles, so it is not a new experience for these players or coaching staff.

"But there should be no bigger incentive for any player or manager than aiming to get into the Premier League and that's the carrot in front of us. If we can finish the job and be playing Premiership football next year would be brilliant for everyone at the club."

A Newry win on Friday would secure a play-off spot and while defeat wouldn't end their chances, it would scupper any hopes of running League leaders Institute until the last game of the season.

Institute play Harland and Wolff Welders tonight (Tuesday), which will give Newry a better indication of what they can achieve, but a positive result against Portadown is paramount.

"If Institute go on and win all their games then fair play to them, there is little we can say or do about that but we need to win all our own game and Friday night is important on it's own merit to secure a play-off spot, but in terms of keeping the pressure on Institute and hopefully taking it to the last game of the season," Mullen said.

"It is a game we are looking forward to.

"There is a a good sense of excitement about the club and a good team spirit and that is always good. There is no pressure on the lads other than what they put on themselves. They will go out and enjoy their football and reap the benefits from it.

"If someone had of said at the start of the season that we would be in with a chance of a play-off spot then I would have been delighted but we haven't secured anything yet and we can talk about play-offs once we secure that."


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